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“Ag Gag” Me With a Spoon (or What Happens at the Farm Stays at the Farm)

January 24, 2012

Whistleblower. n. One who discloses information, made in good faith and in the public interest, showing objectionable misconduct which is not otherwise known or visible.

“We got it all on film.”

Is a whistleblower a criminal?  According to the Federal government, it is not.  The US Department of Labor’s Office of the Whistleblower Protection Program (yes, whistleblowers have their own program!) oversees twenty-one statutes to protect employees when exposing wrong doing in the workplace.  Even the IRS has a Whistleblower Award to encourage anonymous identification of noncompliant taxpayers (IRC 7623(b))?  Being a whistleblower is so trendy, in fact, that Time magazine declared 2002 to be the “Year of the Whistleblower” and made three of them “Persons of the Year.”

So why do Minnesota, New York, Iowa and Florida want to enact “whistleblower suppression” laws that would criminalize undercover investigations of their factory farms?  The agenda behind these laws would be to label whistleblowers as “agro-terrorists,” determined to harm livestock or  damage facilities.  As if applying for a job and recording the habitual atrocities occurring in these farms approaches anything a reasonable person would consider to be terrorism.  This country knows what terrorism is, and I don’t think any of us believe hiding a camera in your coveralls is considered terrorism.

I don’t know about you, but I cannot recall one instance where exposing the crimes being committed in these factory farms as anything but positive.  Positive for the animals and their welfare, for the environment, the health and safety of the workers, and for human food safety.  I believe that trying to criminalize these undercover investigations is more akin to terrorism than allowing them.

Who might benefit from criminalizing these undercover actions?  Those involved in profiting from industrial agriculture – Monsanto, the Farm Bureau, and associations that represent dairy farmers and cattlemen, as well as poultry, soybean and corn growers.  What do they have to fear? What are they hiding? What horrors are lying behind the shroud of secrecy? Dr. Temple Grandin suggests that these facilities install 24/7 cameras so their actions are completely transparent. If a facility is doing it right, they won’t care who shows up to watch.

Please read the following for more information.
Who Protects the Animals? (NYTimes.com)
Ag-Gag Rules (ecocentric blog)
Preventing Cruelty to Farm Animals – Room for Debate (NYTimes.com)
Big Ag’s Latest Attempt to Chill Free Speech (Food Safety News)

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